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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Amnesty: why so fast?

Amnesty: why so fast?

The Editor,


n September 15, 1996 at 11:00 am, King Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia granted an

amnesty to Ieng Sary, one of the main architects of the Killing Fields. This act

of amnesty to one of the main architects of a crime against humanity is unparalleled

and unheard of in the history of human civilization.

If it was told a few months ago that the two Prime Ministers of Cambodia as well

as more than two thirds of the parliamentary members agreed to vote to pardon Ieng

Sary, nobody would have believed it.

The granting of amnesty to Ieng Sary is a serious matter, therefore, it should be

thought out and debated more carefully with all the ramifications that it would entail.

How will this act affect Cambodia in the future? How will it affect the human decency?

How will Cambodia's neighbors such as Thailand and Vietnam view the Cambodian people?

They will probably think that the Cambodian people are weak and can be pushed around.

Think about it. Ieng Sary, one of the leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime under which

nearly two million Cambodians (almost 30 percent of the population) were killed and

starved, now wants the families of those victims to forgive him and forget about

his acts of atrocity? This killing is equivalent to 75 million Americans killed out

of a population of 250 million!

What is the hurry in granting Ieng Sary an amnesty? Is it possible that Hun Sen and

Ieng Sary want to get this done before the King is dead? If the King died, the pardoning

of Ieng Sary would be much more complicated on a legal basis, both nationally and


It is in the national interest of the country to pardon all former Khmer Rouge as

a sign of national reconciliation, but not those in higher power such as Ieng Sary,

Pol Pot, Son Sen, Nuon Chea, Yut Yat, Ke Pauk, Khieu Samphan, Ta Mok, etc? Khieu

Samphan may be the least evil of all among the top KR leaders because he was thought

of as just to be a puppet under Pol Pot. Nevertheless, he is as guilty as everybody


Is it morally right to pardon Ieng Sary just for the sake of national reconciliation?

If the people loyal to Ieng Sary insist on demanding that Ieng Say be pardoned in

order for them to stop fighting, then they have not really been reformed and they

are not really serious about the well-being of the Cambodian people. There is no

man above the law. Ieng Sary alone should not stand in the way of national reconciliation.

The fact that these people are more loyal to Ieng Sary than the well-being of the

Cambodian people is testament that their parties and their people come first. Cambodia

should come first before a party, a leader in a party, or even a king. It is not

only morally repugnant that people like Ieng Sary can go free but his claim of total

innocence in the bloodshed on the Khmer people is an insult to the Cambodian intelligence.

He wants to rewrite history on his own terms. What a sham!

No, Ieng Sary does not care too much about reconciliation per se. Ieng Sary knows

he is fighting a losing and unpopular war. He is only interested in himself and his

son. He wants history to remember him as being innocent and having nothing to do

with the killing fields. He knows he is getting old and not in good health, therefore,

his time is running out. In addition, he wants to do it before the election of 1998,

probably with the hope of being allowed to form a political party and participate

in the election. If he were allowed to form a political party, he knows he would

carry the region of Pailin. He would then become a legitimate politician. He wants

to give legitimacy to his party. All he cares is a future for his son to succeed

him. He is probably hoping that 10 or 20 years from now people will forget about

Ieng Sary the butcher, and remember his son instead. His political party if it were

allowed to be formed would be formidable in the long run because of the money generated

from logging and mining gems. In addition, if his party were to carry the region

of Pailin, they would have a lot of money to fund their political machinery.

Ieng Sary does not think in the short term like most of the Cambodians in Phnom Penh

do. His training as a communist teaches him to think in the long term.

Ieng Sary should not have been pardoned for his crime against humanity. He is a liar;

a selfish and evil person. It is a well known fact that the king dislikes Ieng Sary.

Due to the actions of the two Prime Ministers and the MPs, the King's hands are tied

and he has no choice on this matter except to pardon Ieng Sary.

Ieng Sary is still a murderer! No pardon will erase his name from the atrocities

that he committed in the history book. The Cambodian people and the world must not

forget about his crime against humanity.

The Cambodian people are too forgiving. Cambodians are Buddhist, which teaches them

to forgive their enemies. Yes, the Cambodian people can "forgive" (not

because they are Buddhist but because they want national reconciliation and want

to see the war stopped) most of the Khmer Rouge murderers but they cannot forgive

those top leaders. They are the architects of the killing fields.

Will Hun Sen, Ranariddh, and the MPs voting to grant amnesty to Ieng Sary sleep well

at night? The resulting act of amnesty to one of the most evil men in the world will

be cause for opprobrium in the annals of Cambodian civilization.

We should not be so quick to forgive and forget the tragedy of the past. We should

not dismiss the Khmer Rouge atrocities easily, as if the souls of those millions

of dead Khmer people were meaningless. How can we be so insensitive and unemotional?

Ieng Sary and all the top Khmer Rouge leaders should be put to trial and condemned

for all their past crimes. If it is so easy for the present Cambodian government

and assembly to ignore and forgive this magnitude of a crime committed by the Khmer

Rouge, then I would have to conclude that the Khmer people will never learn from


As Lenin, the master of communism himself said: "History repeats itself, the

first time as a tragedy but the second time as farce." We have allowed history

to repeat itself.

I am very saddened by this lack of respect of human rights, not only towards the

living but also towards the dead. It was the dead who had made the first sacrifice

to build a better society for the living.

Let's hope that this amnesty will bear some fruit. Let's hope that the communist

party will be done forever. Let's hope that Pol Pot is finished. Let's hope that

the Khmer people can live in peace. Let's hope that the Khmer people and the generations

to come will not forget about the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge era. However, we

must always be vigilant about the KR tricks.

As Logan Pearsall Smith (1865-1946), the US essayist and aphorist said, "Only

among people who think no evil can evil monstrously flourish."

- Kenneth T. So, California, United States.



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